Judge imposes 25% of Spanish in Canet de Mar classroom, sparking tensions

Catalan government says judges "make decisions without knowledge of reality" as Supreme Court decision to introduce Spanish not yet complied with

A mother with her children entering the Turó del Drac school, in Canet de Mar, where a graffiti reads 'We want classes in Catalan in Canet', on December 9, 2021 (by Jordi Pujolar)
A mother with her children entering the Turó del Drac school, in Canet de Mar, where a graffiti reads 'We want classes in Catalan in Canet', on December 9, 2021 (by Jordi Pujolar) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

December 10, 2021 12:16 PM

The Catalan high court has imposed that a school in Canet de Mar, a seaside down around 40km north of Barcelona, complies with the recent court ruling that says that at least 25% of classes must be done through Spanish. 

Since Thursday, 25% of the lessons of a P5 class – 5-year-olds – are no longer in Catalan, after the family of a single student requested it and judges agreed.

Yet, the Catalan government and several families of students who will be affected by the judicial decision have sided flatly against it. 

Meanwhile, right-wing unionist parties urge Catalonia to also introduce Spanish as a working language in all schools, following a recent ruling by the Supreme Court

The cabinet is so far not implementing it on the grounds that the decision refers to a law that is no longer in force.

One of the two groups in the Escola Turó del Drac's P5 class, in Canet de Mar, began on Thursday to learn the part of the syllabus on arts and crafts and psychomotricity in Spanish, and no longer in Catalan, a change in the middle of the course ruled by the Catalan high court.

Families against judicial ruling

Families affected by the measure signed a manifesto calling on the Catalan authorities to "take the necessary action to safeguard the Catalan immersion system in schools."

For them, the moves against this system which has been in force for four decades, "have a serious impact on the equal opportunity" of children, and they also say the motivation of the family's complaint is "political."

The education minister, Josep González-Cambray, said on Thursday that the government cannot stop the ruling because its recipient is directly the school director and not the administration.

"A judge makes decisions without knowing the reality of Catalonia's linguistic environment. There is no language problem in Catalan schools," he said from Canet de Mar, where he supported the school which also sides itself against the judicial imposition.

On the contrary, unionist parties such as Ciudadanos and the People's Party supported the family that requested more Spanish-speaking hours for their 5-year-old child and denounced alleged intimidation against the pupil and their relatives.

The association Hamblamos Español and far-right party Vox have taken some offensive Twitter messages against the child to the public prosecutor, which has opened an investigation.  

Pro-independence parties "are the ones imposing an unfair school system called the 'immersion system'. But this is only teaching in one language," said Ciudadanos MP Nacho Martín Blanco.

Catalonia's immersion system

When Catalonia recovered its self-rule in the late 1970s after 40 years of a fascist dictatorship, its new authorities decided that classes in Catalan, rather than a choice between Catalan and Spanish, would ensure that students end their studies speaking both languages – considering that the latter is learned in society because it is the most widely used one and is studied as a language at school.

After 40 years of this Catalan immersion systemthe language is understood by 94.4% of the country's population. Some 81% can speak it, 85% can read it and 65% can write it, with 64% saying they have a good command of all skills – all abilities are mastered by 97% of the population in Catalonia or more when it comes to Spanish, which suggests the system works in order to guarantee a high level of both tongues.

Yet, on November 23, the Spanish Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Catalan department of education against a ruling that said that a minimum of 25% of school instruction in all Catalan public and public-private schools must be given in Spanish.


Check out our recent podcast on the decline in the use of the Catalan language in Catalonia, including a section explaining the current conflict over the immersion system in schools.